We’ve known Idaho for its potatoes. Idaho Russets are fluffier, crispier, and come with a taste that’s additively delicious. But Idaho is not just about potatoes. There’s another taste to it unrelated to food but no less tantalizing. Unknown to many, the panhandle state is a stunningly beautiful travel destination with countless attractions within its irregular borders. In the north, beautiful vistas of rugged, snow-capped mountains rise dramatically in the landscape. Here, most of the land is pristine and seems untouched and unspoiled by human feet. Many streams and rivers, most of which are all clear to their pebbled beds, transport their foam-capped waters along verdant valleys and rugged bends. There are also a number of beautiful serene lakes, filled with calm turquoise waters, that gleam and shimmer in the abundant Idahoan sunlight.

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While the south may appear prosaic and a little drab, the many volcanic lava tubes, impressive caves, and winding tunnels emphatically dispel that notion. However, if you’re a water lover, Southern Idaho, with its many thundering waterfalls and bubbling hot springs, might be exactly what you need. We take a look at the 5 best natural hot springs in that part of the country that’s arguably one of the most underrated.

Kirkham Hot Springs

If not the best, Kirkham hot springs are Idaho’s most famous. No other hot spring in the Gem State comes close especially with respect to the location and access. Slender Ponderosa pines and cheery wildflowers dot the area around the bubbling landscape a few steps from Highway 21 that beautifully snakes its way through the Boise National Forest in the potato state. Elk and deer will be at hand to give you a darting welcome. The parking area is a close if a little arduous stroll—down to the cloudy, steam-filled hot springs below. The main pools are usually busy. But that shouldn’t dampen your spirits. Walk just a few steps around, and you’ll find many little pools with differing temperatures that are less crowded.

The pools that are a little closer to the Payette river are cooler while those further away on the cliffs are warmer. You can soak, take a dripping shower, wade, or just sit out and enjoy the stunning scenery and splashing sounds of warm cascading waters—set against the backdrop of breathtaking forest terrain all around.

Only about 15 minutes away, you’ll find the less crowded Pine Flats hot springs with some of the best clifftop pools in the state. And yes, there’s a camping site at Kirkham hot springs—specifically for daytime camping.

Related: These Are Some Of The Hidden Hot Springs To Visit In Eastern Oregon

Miracle & Banbury Hot Springs

For a little dash of class and a more exclusive experience, Miracle hot springs, located 14.4 kilometers south of the quaint, slow-paced town of Hagerman on Highway 30 has 4 large outdoor general pools—available to the public—and many private pools for a more private bathing experience. While the private pools have a look that is a little beaten and drab, the privacy these pools provide is ideal if you want a quiet, uncrowded experience. At the center of these pools, you’ll go waist-deep in warm, misty water, perhaps a tad too warm for a typical summer afternoon—but refreshingly perfect for a frigidly cold winter climate. Unlike Kirkham, Miracle Hot Springs provide overnight accommodation inside one of the many cozy, fully furnished hemispherical structures technically known as geodomes. Apart from the geodomes, there’s a campsite with a cool, enchanting vibe, on a grassy area beautifully shaded by heavily boughed trees. There are also picnic tables and a fire ring.

Only two miles away is the Banbury Hot Springs which similarly has exclusive private pools and kayaks that can be rented. Miracle’s sister institution shares the barren desert landscape that southern Idaho is known for. But once you step inside this facility, the air, the vibe, and the ambiance— are all refreshingly cool. The water is mineral-rich with zero chemicals, giving the skin a rejuvenating glow that goes all the way to the soul.

  • Location of Mineral Hot Springs: 19073A US-30, Buhl, ID 83316
  • General Admission Fees: $12. (This fee excludes both private pool and accommodation charges)
  • Location of Banbury Hot Springs: 1128 Banbury Rd, Buhl, ID 83316.
  • General Admission Fees: $10 (This fee excludes both private pool and accommodation charges)

Stanley, Jerry Johnson & Weir Creek Hot Springs

Along the winding 202 miles long Northwest Passage Scenic Byway, the longest byway in Idaho, lies a trio of famous hot springs—all within about 64 kilometers of each other. The distance from the parking area is a short stroll away to the hot springs at both Jerry Johnson and Weir Creek. So you’ll not have to worry about long, sweat-inducing hikes over steep, difficult terrains. But if you want to go to Stanley Hot Springs, you’ll have to brace yourself for a 5-miles difficult hike whose consolation is the stunning scenery through the beautiful Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness​.

Jerry Johnson Hot Springs bubbles hazily at MP 152 on Northwest Passage Scenic. The designated parking area known as Warm Springs is close to the suspension bridge over the Lochsa River. A mile on Warm Springs Trail 49 will reveal three spacious pools of varying temperatures—all clear to their sandy bases. The trek to Weir Creek Hot Springs is a tad more difficult but fortunately much shorter. Weir Creek Hot Springs is close to Missoula, Montana on US-12 east at the junction of Lochsa River and Weir Creek. This hot spring is hidden among dense pine trees giving it a quiet, mystical ambiance. If you find the main pool crowded, you can find smaller pools spread all around where you can still enjoy a warm, refreshing soak.

Much of Idaho’s beauty remains hidden and unappreciated. However, there’s a reason Ernest Hemingway chose it as his hideout when he was writing his masterpiece For Whom The Bell Tolls. Idaho’s beauty is only hidden to the superficial onlooker.